“Oh, I really love this place. Can you feel the energy?” I was so touched by the enthusiasm of the eight-year-old son of my daughter’s partner. While I hear other children whingeing about the walk, this young boy is loving the touch of the trees, the curl of the vines, the rippling stream and the water tumbling down from the Natural Bridge. He has such sensitivity toward nature which he shares with so many children like him who sit somewhere on the Autistic Spectrum.
I remember when I was teaching in special education so many years ago, this spectrum was only just beginning to be recognised by the public. I remember one student that particularly stood out. Robert had never had a piano lesson and yet if we played him a piece of music, he would immediately sit down and play what he had heard. He also had an uncanny ability to draw whatever you asked him to draw, so became very popular when drawing on T-Shirts came into vogue. As he grew older, some of his behaviour was quite alien to most people. He had some mannerisms that would appear at any given moment. I remember taking him to an orchestral concert for young people. I talked to the organisers ahead of the concert about some mannerisms that might annoy other members of the audience. Their answer to my concerns was to give us the very best seats at the front of the house. Robert was very excited and I probably cared too much that he would suddenly want to stand up, turn around three times and sit down again – one of his habits which seemed to exacerbate when he was excited. I didn’t want people to judge him without knowing the brilliant, very special person he was. Of course, my concern didn’t matter and whenever there was a crescendo in the music, it would be punctuated by Robert doing his three- point turn. Only one person complained but everyone else could see how rapt he was in the music. I loved him so much and feel privileged to have had him in my care.
Our little chap is high functioning and has a fetish for white goods. My daughter knows that a special treat for him is a visit to a white goods store. He is not very impressed with my ceiling fans and my white goods leave much to be desired but I have promised him that I will update this summer. He comes out with extraordinary pieces of wisdom and has a special affinity with spiritual music. He plays a mean singing bowl and certainly dances to his own drum beat. He sleeps easily after his father meditates with him each night.
Even though stigmas still exist, racist and homophobic slurs still blot our humanity, I am grateful that more people are beginning to understand our differences and with all the horror that is happening in a society where hatred and judgement still prevails, I see pockets of beauty and understanding. I want to gravitate more towards the light and caring but also to understand that when people are hurting, they don’t always act in loving ways. In the meantime, I am enjoying seeing the love that a father showers on his special son – and my daughter of course.